Franklin County military families eligible for food distribution

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

More than 20% of the households in central Pennsylvania receiving food assistance have at least one member who served or is serving in the military.

That statistic from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is no surprise to Justin Slep, director of the Franklin County Office of Veteran Affairs. Providing access to fresh, nutritious food has been on his project list for two or three years.

Franklin County is now participating in MilitaryShare, a Central Pennsylvania Food Bank program to help veterans, people serving in the armed forces and their families.

Slep checked that off his list Wednesday, April 20, when the Franklin County commissioners approved an agreement with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to participate in its MilitaryShare program.

Local households with a family member who is a veteran or is serving in the armed forces — including reservists — are now eligible for a free monthly food distribution.

“I just see too many military families struggling. I feel there is a need,” said Slep, who called the stories he hears “heart-breaking.”

He recently spoke with the widow of a veteran who died by suicide a few years ago. She told Slep she makes sure to feed her adult child with special needs, but cannot afford food for herself every day.

She was in tears when Slep signed her up for Franklin County MilitaryShare. About 10 families are now registered for the program, more are actively being recruited and Slep hopes to have 100 on board by the end of the year.

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“Veterans and members of the military help us in our nation’s time of need. It’s critical that we help them in theirs,” Slep said in a letter about the program. “They fought for our freedom. By providing them with food to feed their families, we are fighting for their future.”

Franklin County joins nearly 30 other MilitaryShare programs assisting over 45,000 people in the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s 27-county service region, according to a news release from the county commissioners.

Funded through a Franklin County Human Services Block Grant, the program is free for participants, but advance registration is required so the right amount of food can be ordered. Distributions will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month, beginning May 3, at 425 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg.

Participants will receive meat, eggs, milk and fruits and vegetables, along with nonperishables like soup, pasta, sauce and cereal.

“This is not something to be shy or embarrassed about it,” Slep said, adding help is just a phone call away. “Please, please call … and tell your tell friends about it.”

For more information or to register for Franklin County MilitaryShare, contact John McPaul, Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs community outreach coordinator, at 717-263-4326 or jpmcpaul@franklincountypa.gov

Proof of military service is required and participation in other food assistance programs will not prohibit individuals and families from taking advantage of Franklin County MilitaryShare.

Tee up to help veterans

David Keller, Franklin County commissioner, commented at Wednesday’s commissioner meeting that he appreciates the continued initiative of Slep and his Veterans Affairs team.

The agency offers a variety of outreach programs including Operation Save-A-Vet, Save-A-Pet, Helping Hands for Heroes, FOCUS Photography Program and Rucks to Reins, as well as scholarships.

They are offered free to veterans and are paid for by grants, fundraisers and donations.

Planning is underway for the sixth annual Franklin County Veterans Affairs Golf Tournament on Friday, Sept. 2, at Penn National Golf Club. It is the biggest fundraiser for outreach programs.

Registration begins at 7 a.m., with a shotgun start at 8. The cost is $400 a foursome, which includes light breakfast, greens fees, cart fees, on-course refreshments, lunch, door prize ticket and appreciation gift.

Based on availability, golfers can choose to play either the Founders Course or the Iron Forge Course. All members of the winning team from each course will receive a voucher for a five-day, four-night cruise for two.

Sponsorship opportunities also are available.

For more information or to register, call 717-263-4326; email veteransoutreach@franklincountypa.gov or visit https://bit.ly/FCgolf2.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at shardy@gannett.com